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Louis Blanc

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Title: Louis Blanc  
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Subject: French Provisional Government of 1848, Forty-Eighters, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Socialism, Philadelphes
Collection: 1811 Births, 1882 Deaths, 19Th-Century French Politicians, Burials at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Cooperative Organisers, Forty-Eighters, French Essayists, French Freemasons, French Historians, French Male Writers, French Socialists, Government Ministers of France, Historians of the French Revolution, Male Essayists, Members of the 1848 Constituent Assembly, Members of the Chamber of Deputies of the French Third Republic, Members of the National Assembly (1871), People Deported from France, Politicians from Madrid
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Louis Blanc

Louis Blanc
Born (1811-10-29)October 29, 1811
Madrid, Kingdom of Spain
Died December 6, 1882(1882-12-06) (aged 71)
Cannes, France
Residence Paris, France
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophers
School Socialism
Main interests
Politics, history, economy
Notable ideas
Right to work, national Workshops

Louis Jean Joseph Charles Blanc (French: ; 29 October 1811 – 6 December 1882) was a French politician and historian. A socialist who favored reforms, he called for the creation of cooperatives in order to guarantee employment for the urban poor.

Following the Revolution of 1848 Blanc became a member of the provisional government and began advocating for cooperatives which would be initially aided by the government but ultimately controlled by the workers themselves. Blanc's advocacy failed and, caught between radical worker tendencies and the National Guard, he was forced into exile. Blanc returned to France after the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian war and served as a member of the National Assembly. Although he did not support the Paris Commune he successfully proposed amnesty to the Communards.

Even though Blanc's ideas of the workers' cooperatives were never realized, his political and social ideas greatly contributed to the development of socialism in France.


  • Biography 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • The Revolution of 1848 1.2
    • Exile 1.3
    • Return to France 1.4
    • Legacy 1.5
  • Works 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5
  • External links 6


Early years

Louis Blanc was born in De chacun selon ses facultés, à chacun selon ses besoins",[2] which is often translated as "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." This was to be affected by the establishment of "social workshops", a sort of combined co-operative society and trade-union, where the workmen in each trade were to unite their efforts for their common benefit. In 1841 he published his Histoire de dix ans 1830-1840, an attack upon the monarchy of July. It ran through four editions in four years.

The Revolution of 1848

In 1847 he published the two first volumes of his Histoire de la Revolution Française. Its publication was interrupted by the Revolution of 1848, when Louis Blanc became a member of the provisional government. It was on his motion that, on 25 February, the government undertook "to guarantee the existence of the workmen by work"; and though his demand for the establishment of a ministry of labour was refused—as beyond the competence of a provisional government—he was appointed to preside over the government labour commission (Commission du Gouvernement pour les travailleurs) established at the Palais du Luxembourg to inquire into and report on the labour question.

Frontis from Blanc's Organisation du Travail, published in Paris in 1850 by Nouveau Monde.

The revolution of 1848 was the real chance for Louis Blanc's ideas to be implemented. His theory of using the established government to enact change was different from those of other socialist theorists of his time. Blanc believed that workers could control their own livelihoods, but knew that unless they were given help to get started the cooperative workshops would never work. To assist this process along Blanc lobbied for national funding of these workshops until the workers could assume control. To fund this ambitious project, Blanc saw a ready revenue source in the rail system. Under government control the railway system would provide the bulk of the funding needed for this and other projects Blanc saw in the future.

When the National Guard. The National Assembly was also able to blame Blanc for the failure of the workshops. His ideas were questioned and he lost much of the respect which had given him influence with the public.
Between the "sans-culottes", who tried to force him to place himself at their head, and the National Guards, who mistreated him, he was nearly killed. Rescued with difficulty, he escaped with a false passport to Belgium, and then to London. In his absence he was condemned by a special tribunal at Bourges, in contumaciam, to deportation. Against trial and sentence he alike protested, developing his protest in a series of articles in the Nouveau Monde, a review published in Paris under his direction. These he afterwards collected and published as Pages de l'histoire de la révolution de 1848 (Brussels, 1850).


During his stay in Britain he made use of the unique collection of materials for the revolutionary period preserved at the La Grand Loge des Philadelphes is unconfirmed.

Return to France

Louis Blanc, ca. 1874/1877.

As far back as 1839 Louis Blanc had vehemently opposed the idea of a Napoleonic restoration, predicting that it would be "despotism without glory", "the Empire without the Emperor." He therefore remained in exile until the fall of the Second Empire in September 1870, after which he returned to Paris and served as a private in the National Guard. On 8 February 1871 he was elected a member of the National Assembly, in which he maintained that the Republic was "the necessary form of national sovereignty", and voted for the continuation of the war; yet, though a leftist, he did not sympathize with the Paris Commune, and exerted his influence in vain on the side of moderation. In 1878 he advocated the abolition of the presidency and the Senate. In January 1879 he introduced into the chamber a proposal for the amnesty of the Communards, which was carried. This was his last important act. His declining years were darkened by ill-health and by the death, in 1876, of his wife Christina Groh, whom he had married in 1865. He died at Cannes, and on 12 December received a state funeral in Père Lachaise Cemetery.


Louis Blanc in his last years.

Louis Blanc possessed a picturesque and vivid style, and considerable power of research; but the fervour with which he expressed his convictions, while placing him in the first rank of orators, tended to turn his historical writings into political pamphlets. His political and social ideas have had a great influence on the development of socialism in France. His Discours politiques (1847–1881) was published in 1882. his most important works, besides those already mentioned, are Lettres sur l'Angleterre (1866–1867), Dix années de l'Histoire de l'Angleterre (1879–1881), and Questions d'aujourd'hui et de demain (1873–1884).

The Paris Metro Station Louis Blanc is named after him.


  • Louis Blanc (1841). The History of Ten Years, 1830-1840 (Vol. 1). New York: Chapman and Hall. p. 628. ASIN B0006BWS4Y. 

See also


  1. ^ Varouxakis, Georgios (2004). "Blanc, (Jean Joseph) Louis (1811–1882), political thinker and exile". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Louis Blanc, Plus de Girondins, 1851, p. 92.


  • G.R.S. Taylor, Leaders of Socialism (1968)
  • G.D.H Cole, Socialist Thought, The Forerunners 1789-1850 (1959)
  • Harry W. Laidler, A History of Socialist Thought (1927)
    • L. Fiaux, Louis Blanc (1883)
    This work in turn cites, in addition to Blanc's own works:  

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  •  "Blanc, Jean Joseph Louis".  
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